Learn about the Federal Work-Study Program

The Federal Work-Study Program provides students with part-time jobs to earn money that helps pay for college.

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Which colleges participate in the Federal Work-Study?footnote 1

Not every college offers work-study. Work-study is offered by colleges that participate in the Federal Work-Study Program. When visiting colleges, ask if the school participates-or check with a school's financial aid office at any time.

Unlike other financial aid programs, Federal Work-Study gives you an actual job (and a paycheck) where you have to work to earn your money.

Federal Work-Study jobs can be on or off campus:

On-campus work-study

If you work on campus, you'll usually work for your school. Jobs can involve anything from helping out in the financial aid office to working in the student cafeteria to being a research assistant.

Off-campus work-study

If you work off campus, your employer will usually be a private non-profit organization or a public agency.

Some schools might have agreements with private for-profit employers for work-study jobs. These jobs must be relevant to your course of study.

How do you qualify for work-study?

In order to qualify for work-study, you need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Your completed FAFSA application can help you qualify for federal financial aid programs including work-study.

Being awarded Federal Work-Study doesn't guarantee you a job. Schools that participate in the program award jobs on a first-come, first-served basis.

Choosing your work-study job

Some schools match students to work-study jobs, but other schools require students to apply and interview for them. The benefit of applying and interviewing is that you have the opportunity to choose jobs that match your skills and interests. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to get extra practice interviewing.

The Federal Work-Study Program emphasizes employment in civic education and work related to your course of study, whenever possible.

Work-study vs a part-time job

Here are a few benefits of work-study compared to another part-time job.

Easy commute
Many jobs are on campus, which—for some students—means they won’t need a car. You could save money on gas and get to and from work-study quickly.

Interesting jobs
You may be able to find a position that suits your skills and interests—whether it be at the gym, the library, the career counseling office, etc.

Flexible hours
Schools offer jobs that fit around your class schedule (studies always come first).

Through the work-study program, you may get exposure to faculty, staff, and other on-campus people you might not meet otherwise.

Work-study wages & taxesfootnote 2

Work-study wages are generally subject to federal and state income tax, if you’re enrolled in school full-time and work less than half-time.

When applying for federal financial aid each year, work-study earnings from the full calendar year should be included in your FAFSA.

Federal Work-Study earnings do not hurt a student’s chances of getting federal student aid the following year, as they are reported separately on the FAFSA.footnote 3

Work-study limitations

Most of the jobs the Federal Work-Study Program offers are paid on an hourly basis. Work-study students earn at least the current federal minimum wage, but total earnings may also depend on when you apply and your level of financial need.

There is a limit to the number of hours work-study students can work. It depends on your total award. In other words, you can earn up to a predetermined amount.

The future excites me so much. There's so many things that are unknown in the future, so it's a whole big broad spectrum of, 'You can do whatever you want.'

Kate G., Bridging the Dream Scholarship winner

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footnote 1. This information was gathered on 07/26/23 from https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/work-study.

footnote 2. This information was gathered on 07/26/23 from http://www.finaid.org/questions/faq.phtml/.

footnote 3. This information was gathered on 07/26/23 from https://studentaid.gov/articles/8-things-federal-work-study/.

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.